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Better than the 1930 movie
Having met and talked to both Ernest Borgnine and Richard Thomas I feel a stronger bond with this version, which I find much more realistic and naturally acted than the 1930 version, which I found too stylized and melodramatic-more like a play than a movie. A movie which shows The Other Side and portrays them as ordinary men pulled into a conflict which they barely understand and suspect is for Somebody's Else's benefit but they will do their duty to their country, their homes and families-and each other. The strength of Remarque's novel is captured here-he does not preach or shout, he merely presents and lets the reader and viewer draw his own conclusions. As an Army veteran I particularly liked Kaczynski's observation that "It wouldn't be such a bad war if we could get some more sleep." The production values are excellent, the period details-the uniforms, especially-are excellent, and it has a quality I consider very important in a historically based movie-you really feel you are traveling back in Time.
La rivière du hibou (1961)
Excellent Visual Storytelling
A short film shot in France about the American Civil War works because they translated Bierce's words into pictures that need no dialogue. I have never read the original story but I did hear a radio performance from Suspense ! with Vincent Price. It adds some details-but I won't spoil it for you.
We see things through Peyton Farquahr's eyes and hear with his ears, hence no words are needed to interpret them-we are Peyton Farquahr. Almost cinema-verite. The final scene where he rushes to meet his wife-who rushes towards him-I don't think Serling could have done it better.
Star Trek: A Piece of the Action (1968)
A very clever story.
Those of us who grew up in the 50s when the "Roaring Twenties" were not so distant, who remember the gangster movies of the 1950s, "The Untouchables", the TV series "The Roaring Twenties" can appreciate this episode a little more. It is a good example of how good writers can take a situation that could be rather grim-think of "Patterns of Force", where there has been a major violation of The Prime Directive -OK, it wasn't in force at the time, but it was situations like this that led to its adoption-and make it funny and effective. Gangsters wearing fancy clothing but can't shake their "dese and dem and doze" accents, people behaving in a certain way, exaggerated mannerisms because they think that's what they're supposed to. And how many people reading this today could drive a manual transmission ?
A good political story.
Yes ! Remember this was produced in 1968. The Soviets sent troops into Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring, China was consumed by the Cultural Revolution, the world was a very dangerous place. Throughout the centuries tyrants of every stripe and persuasion have tried to control the information their subjects receive and blame so many of their problems and failures on outsiders with malicious intent. A self contained world where people have few if any memories of the "Good Old Days" and no way to contradict what they are told by their rulers, and face severe punishments if they rebel. Truth is what the rulers-or ruler-will decide on. It does recycle the controlling computer idea from "Return of the Archons"-I wonder if those who built the Oracle saw Landru's plans ? The Prime Directive ? As Kirk told Spock in "Return of the Archons " "That refers to a living breathing society ! Do you think this is ?
The Black Hole (1979)
On a par with 2001....
..and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for special effects, cinematography, story, acting, dialog. Like those two it is an adventure movie, people who find themselves swept into something beyond their comprehension and like nothing they expected. Like the first two movies its ending is somewhat ambiguous, I still haven't figured out the end to 2001 and 20,000 Leagues ends with Vulcania going up in a mushroom shaped cloud and our heroes in a small boat in the vastness of the Pacific. IMHO the special effects hold up, I note the movie has a film noir feel to it, the blackness of space means so much of the action takes place in darkness or shadows and has a claustrophobic feel to it. Reinhardt is Captain Nemo in space-the two actors even resemble each other. Brilliant gifted men who have gone over the edge, think the rules of human conduct no longer apply to them, and have their obsession. Nemo had "that hated nation", Reinhardt the Black Hole, Nemo has his henchman the Mate, Reinhardt Maxximilian. And like Morbius in Forbidden Planet they have lived away from society so long that while they can still follow the form of civility you get the feeling they deeply resent intrusions into their private realms. The movies contains some of my favorite lines. When Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine) is asked "Didn't you meet Dr. Reinhardt he replies "Collided with him is more like it !" And when Booth meets Reinhardt on the Cyngus, far from being awed by him he notes how Reinhardt conned the space agency into spending vast sums on what seemed to be a fiasco and a boondoggle.
Atlantis: The Lost Continent (1961)
Good Saturday Afternoon Escapist Fare.
That's how it looked to me when I saw it on its first release in 1961-I was 11 at the time. And that's how to view it. Don't expect incredibly subtle acting, profound and penetrating dialog, deep insights into the human condition. It's an adventure movie, its protagonist is an ordinary man thrown into incredible circumstances-like Indiana Jones, no ? George Pal's pre-CGI specials effects hold up well, a good example where imagination linked to a strong sense of credibility make up for lack of technology. Think of Ray Harryhausen or the Lydecker Brothers, they were George Pal's contemporaries. Joyce Taylor as Princess Antilla-hmmm,isn't she a lot like like Princess Leaia ? Nice to look at, drives the boys wild, but feisty, rather iron willed and not to ready to cuddle up to those she deems inferiors. Has several familiar themes-Evil Empire headed by-or at least guided by-mad scientist, sees outsiders as inferiors merely to be subjugated for the benefit of the "Master Race", but one of the top men has pangs of consciences, senses they're unleashing forces they can't control. And what they're doing is wrong. Regarding the use of stock footage, scenes from other movies, studios are in business to make money and they often do so by cutting corners and using what they have on hand, profits are made as much through not spending money, avoiding losses as through ticket sales, producers and directors who complete movies on or ahead of schedule and at or under budget are viewed with great favor by studio execs.
The Raw Ones (1965)
A documentary or and exploitation picture, take your pick.
50 years the skin magazines were pretty tame by contemporary standards, hard core pornography was much harder to find, much more "underground". "Nudist" magazines and movies sort of bridged the gap, you got to see full frontal nudity but in a rather non erotic way, and it was done in a more "respectable" manner than exploitation movies. Of course this "documentary" shows only young, trim people, the girls are all fairly shapely, the men fairly athletic. (Obesity was much less common back then.)So you can take this one either way. A "documentary" extolling the virtues of the clothes-free lifestyle or an exploitation flick dressed up as an "educational" movie.
Radar Men from the Moon (1952)
Just as enoyable as...
..say Star Wars. Comparing a 1950s serial with what many think is THE movie ? Think about it-how scientifically correct is Star Wars ? How many familiar images does it use ? The bad guys wearing black or gray uniforms, they have "Storm Troopers" do their dirty work? Where have we seen THAT before ? it In both cases the producers were trying to tell a story and sell tickets. And remember, 1952. The space programs were just getting started, the USSR orbited Sputnik in 1957, the US sent up Vanguard in 1958, 1961 when Gagarin orbited the Earth is still nine years away. I remember watching the Commando Cody series on TV in the 1950s, those special effects looked pretty believable, the scenes where the rocket takes off and you see the car and the building that you saw when the actors arrived-the Lydecker Brothers did that all long before CGI. Roy Barcroft, Republic's Villain in residence as Retik. I read that Barcroft took his work in the serials very seriously because he knew how much they meant to the kids, he insisted the other actors do so as well-it shows.
Hand in Hand (1961)
A nice charming little movie but...
..despite the fact that the two stars are children it is really not a kids movie. It is a good example of an "adult" movie in the older sense that kids really shouldn't see it because they wouldn't get it. I was taken to see "A Raisin in the Sun" at the same time and that went over the head of this 11 year old macho man. In my case I came from a family that was vaguely Protestant but not church going at the time and I was exposed to no prejudice at home. I knew that the Catholics were sort of "The Other" and that Jews were "different" but no idea how or why. The scenes I recall the most clearly-after 55 years were of the boy's anguish when he pulls the girl out and find her limp and unresponsive and the one scene in the flashbacks where they are burying a mouse and the girl insists "He's a Jewish mouse." The final scene that shows the priest and the rabbi walking off in different directions, people trying to read symbolism into that..a good friend is an Orthodox rabbi, another friend is pastor of a church, I have started going back to church-those people don't have 9 to 5 jobs.
A Wartime Movie made long after the War.
As others have noted, this is "Socialist Realism"-i.e. portraying things the way the Powers That Be WANT them to be portrayed. Stalin hadn't completely established his iron grip by 1934 so movie makers had a moderate amount of latitude but they still had to conform to The Party Line, hence a movie very similar to those we made during WWII-"Our" side is noble, just and honorable, the "Enemy: is evil, crass-and stupid. I saw this movie years ago when I was in a Russian language course in the Army, in a version with a modest amount of subtitles. I recall the attack of the Whites was labeled "The Psychological Attack"-they form up in closed ranks and advance over open terrain against Bolsheviks armed with machine guns and ALMOST succeed until Chapayev rallies the troops and repels them. Yeah, right.
Good Stay At Home Day Entertainment.
This was my introduction to Chinese martial arts movies, caught it on "Kung Fu Theater" on a Philadelphia station 25 years ago or so. The plot, such as it is , involves a man, a woman and a boy who are out to rescue a prince who has been kidnapped by a villain called "The Baron" in the dubbed version I saw. Has some fantasy elements,enough humor to release the tension. The heroes go their separate ways but reunite for the final showdown, each has their talent-the man, his fists, the woman her sword, the boy uses a hoop. And of course each is a one man (or woman) army. Good miserable rainy,snowy or icy stay-at-home day entertainment.
The Return of Captain Nemo (1978)
Fun if you don't take it too seriously
This is sort of a "1930s Serial as done by Irwin Allen". Imagine what Republic or Mascot could have done with 1970s movie technology. Superb special effects, the acting ranges from good to hammy, the dialog often inane, the premise preposterous, but if you don't take it too seriously, it's fun, a good rainy/snowy afternoon entertainment. It does contain one of my favorite movie scenes however. When the two Navy officers awaken Captain Nemo and he starts to talk about his crew and his ship, one of them says: "But Captain Nemo was a character in a book by Jules Verne!" To which he replies: "Had it perhaps occurred to you that that writer was a biographer as well as a novelist?"
Very True to the Book
Having read the book, and being an amateur Sovietologist who studied Russian, I will state that this movie (which I haven't seen in 40 years, I will admit) does a tremendous job of bringing the book to life. The only scenes in the movie that I recall were not in the Book were the one where it shows the Captain starting his spell in the punishment cell, and a scene where a prisoner is receiving a package from home (which I won't spoil for you.). Once I got over the actors speaking in English and Norwegian accents-which I realized are better than "movie Russian" accents I found myself a "fly on the wall" and seeing things through Solzhenitsyn's eyes. The opening and closing credits where the camp first appears as a white light against a black landscape are an excellent use of artistic license to convey the isolation of the GULAG camps-and of the prisoners. And their guards.
The Last Starfighter (1984)
A True Classic
I define a "classic" as a movie that while not perfect (what is?) is so well made and put together that it requires neither revision or a remake. And this is a classic. It's been so long since I saw it that my memories are hazy so I will mention my favorite scenes. There is the scene where Lance Guest says "Great! I"m a million miles from home and about to get creamed and a gung-ho iguana tells me to relax!" and the scene where his robot replica is trying to repair his head-the kid brother wakes up, see him/it and is told "If you don't go back to sleep I'm gonna tell Mom about your Playboys!"
I met Lance Guest at Chiller Theatre this weekend-a very personable fellow-and he could still recite these lines-with feeling.
I also liked the way the aliens-Grig and Centauri, and the others-were real characters, not one dimensional cutouts and done with a somewhat lighter touch.
In short, worth seeing, and a True Classic.
Pretty Well Balanced
I read the book in 1970 or so when I was in the Army, I thought the movie was pretty well balanced. The book starts with Huie visiting the "Dishonored Dead" section of the US Oise-Aisne Cemetery in France where Slovik was initially buried-his remains were repatriated in 1987. The author keeps asking why only one death sentence carried out and why Slovik, why if the purpose was to make an example of him was the execution carried out in secrecy. From there he goes into Slovik's troubled youth, his criminal record which initially protected him from the draft. But as the Drill Sergeant tells him and his fellow recruits in Basic, "You guys are the bottom of the barrel. But now the heat's one, Uncle Same needs bodies, and the bottom of that barrel is starting to look mighty good." Armies-and the governments they serve-have a funny way of lowering their standards as wars drag on. The official name of the Draft in the USA was (and is) Selective Service, by 1943 they were a lot less selective. Slovik was a good example of what WWII GIs called "The Sad Sack" (in my day, 1967-1971, a "dud", in civilianese we might say a loser.
One poster said Slovik gambled and lost, a very apt description. He repeatedly declared he would desert if given the chance, he was given a chance to redeem himself, he refused-I can clearly recall the scene where he tells the JAG officer "I want my court martial." Eisenhower hoped he could equal Pershing's record of no executions for desertion, but as the author notes he had a lot of other things on his plate. The author notes the court martial was made up of rear echelon officers, he notes the presence of some combat arms officers would have been better but they were otherwise engaged. I recall the scene where the president of the court reads the written secret ballots, realizes the vote is unanimous for death, tells the others "Let's have another cigarette and think about this."
Worth watching, very true to the source, this is one you watch and you draw your own conclusions.
See the Movie, then read the Book(s)
I saw this one before I read much on Cromwell and the Commonwealth so I was a little annoyed when I found out the producers gave this period the "Hollyweird" treatment-though I remember reading a review in "Punch" pointing out the film's flaws. IIRC this was filmed in Spain with the Spanish Army providing the large numbers of troops that give the battle scenes an epic quality and the attention given to the costumes, the speech and the mannerisms does let you feel you are looking in on England in the 1640s. As a history buff I note that the British Army was we know it from the 17,18th and 19th Centuries did not exist yet, it has its genesis in the English Civil Wars. The scenes of the New Model Army training look a little too modern to this US Army veteran but it was that Army's training and discipline, or before that the training and discipline of Cromwell's Ironsides that made them so effective. Alec Guiness was an excellent choice for Charles I just on appearance alone, as to the complaints about "Irishman" Richard Harris playing Cromwell, I suspect a hefty paycheck and the challenges of the role played a part.
The movie tries to compress 9 years of history into 2 hours screen time, as others have noted there are no references to dates, battles like Marston Moor, etc. See it for the battles, the costumes, the scenery, read the history books for the real dialog.
An All Time Classic
I recently saw this again in the following circumstances:
1. I saw it on the Big Screen at Loew's in Jersey City
2. Arlene Dahl was at the pre-movie reception and later participated in a Q&A session with one of the hosts. If she isn't one of the most charming and gracious Hollywood types I've ever met then she's an even better actress than she's ever been given credit for.
This IS a Big Screen Movie, it must be seen on the Big Screen to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Despite the fact that it has what I would call a small set quality-once they begin the descent there are only 5 actors with regular lines and they are usually in close proximity to one another, this is an Epic and deserves Epic viewing. Yes it has its share of Movie Mistakes-I noted that all the male actors remain clean shaven throughout and receive regular haircuts. In the scene where Pat Boone discovers the forest of mushrooms and they go hog-wild eating them, Arlene Dahl reminds them that they will soon find the taste of salt beef appealing, it occurred to me than an individual could carry rations for at most 1 week, and here it is the 256th day of the Expedition.
The writers took liberties with Verne's story. In a program note handed out at the theater it was pointed the heroes were changed from Germans to Scots, a Swede and an Icelander because 14 years after the end of WWII English speaking audiences would not accept German heroes. Arlene Dahl's character is a new addition, what Verne stories I've read have almost no female characters. But in addition to eye appeal she also is the translator for Big Hans. Having first seen this movie as a 10 year old the "battle of the sexes" went completely over my head (though 10 year old boys like to look at pretty ladies too)this time around I appreciated it, especially as her character and her portrayal are of a strong willed and assertive woman-they had plenty of those in the 19th Century.
Before the screening there were some introductory remarks. The host said the story can be seen as both straight adventure in a physical sense and as a psychological adventure-penetrating deeper into the human psyche with Count Saknussem representing the Dark Side of humankind but not completely evil. He said note how Bernard Herrman's score uses lower registers as they go deeper into the Earth.
Some of Arlene Dahl's comments:
1. Gertrude the Duck had 4 stand ins, she had one.
2. She said the bats in some of the caves took a liking to Pat Boone, and he seemed to get along with them, so they called him "Bat" Boone. She said he was a much better actor than he is credited as being, said he was fairly easy to work with.
3. She said they all, and Pat Boone especially, worked on their accents. Pat Boone developed a very convincing Scottish burr. Then they got back to the US, Daryly Zabuck decided the dialog in accent s was to hard to follow, they had to re dub their dialog. Naturally the dubbers missed spots-you will hear them.
4. And when she saw it with us she hadn't seen it in 50 years.
Ilya Muromets (1956)
It would be fun see this one one the Big Screen
I first saw this Russian/Soviet epic on WOR TV's "Million Dollar Theater" back in the 60s, on our old B&W set. I would compare it with Sergei Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevsky"-virtuous Russians fighting evil invaders, in this case with a big dose of fantasy, Russian folklore, and done on a Cecil B. DeMille scale. I have not read much about the making of this movie but I suspect most of the extras were Red Army soldiers, much the same way the Soviet Army provided all the extras for "Waterloo" in 1970. The acting probably is a little broad by our standards but they do things differently in other countries and seeing a foreign is like travel-you see something different. And this is a fantasy-were there any subtleties of expression in "Star Wars"? I think the 1950s special effects hold up even in our CGI era and they looked fine on a 14" B&W screen in 1963. A nice big bag of popcorn, a cold winter night-or just a rainy one, the lights down, sit back and enjoy the show.
Flash Gordon (1954)
Pretty Exciting 50 years ago
I have fond if hazy memories of this series, when I finally found one episode in a Woolworth's bargain bin 20 years ago I immediately purchased it. For a 1950's kid for whom TV was something exciting and wonderful-and with no exposure to the Buster Crabbe serials-this program was Flash Gordon come to life. Steve Holland looked the part and was fairly athletic, Joe Nash also made a good Dr. Zarkov, and yes Irene Champlin was an eyeful and holds up well. Having since learned that it was filmed in West Berlin and then France I can see that it does have a different look and feel from contemporary Hollywood productions. The stories were played straight, many of the episodes had a grim feel to them. almost a film noir feel. Yes the special effects are low budget and to our CGI spoiled eyes might seem a little cheesy and what science there is laughably out of date-hey, I recall seeing a "Star Trek" episode where one of the characters is awaiting a computer printout and the sound effects are clearly of a printing press- but part of the fun of watching yesteryear's science fiction is comparing it to what we have and seeing where they got it "wrong". "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" it's not, it's definitely not the Buster Crabbe productions. Think of it as a local theater group's production, sit back and enjoy the show. And go back 50 years.
The Green Hornet (1966)
Worth Watching If You Can Find It.
I watched this one faithfully during its prime time run those forty or so years ago (egad!). On our old black and white set of course. I was a senior in high school so my sole purchase of tie in merchandise was the Al Hirt album "The Horn meets the Hornet" with him and Van Williams (in costume) on the cover. As a True Believer I quickly grew tired of "Batman's" campiness, found "The Green Hornet" being played straight a welcome change, and having grown up when the memory of Radio was still very fresh in many people's minds, I had the image of Radio as this magical time that I had missed out on. There was something of a nostalgia and trivia craze in the mid 1960s, "The Green Hornet" was an attempt to cash in on that, and a well executed one too. The show had three stars, Van Williams, Bruce Lee and Black Beauty. And Wende Wagner was mighty appealing too.
I have read various version as to why it wasn't renewed, my one acquaintance who had some contact with the TV world said that studio and network executives are all too often not as clever as we think they are and they think they are, even popular shows are cancelled. And the studio's refusal to release the show on VHS-oops, DVD despite Bruce Lee's cult status is also hard to fathom.
So if you find it you will be seeing a fairly well written well acted adventure/crime fighting program with fairly high production values that IMHO has "classic" status.
The Flash (1990)
Deserved more of a chance
I second the comments about this program being the victim of erratic scheduling, moving it from time slot to time slot made it hard to record in that long ago pre-TIVO era. Visually superb, though since "my" Flash is Barry Allen I had a hard time accepting dark haired John Wesley Shipp in the role. Also I don't recall Iris being English. Plus the inconsistency of the time settings was a little confusing-seeing 1950s vehicles was fun for this 58 year old but I could see it would be confusing for younger viewers. And I suppose giving the hero little quirks-his superspeed gives him "the hungries", I recall one scene where he swipes a whole turkey from a buffet-at superspeed of course. DC heroes in the 1960s tended to pretty straight laced and square compared to the Marvel characters, though I last read DC comics in 1968 or so and am not familiar with the changes since then. And modern CGI effects could do a fine job of portraying the Flash's compressed costume coming out of his ring when it's time for him to change.
Summary: Could have been better but still worth watching.
The Angry Red Planet (1959)
Better than you think
This movie made a strong impression on me when I saw it on the Big Screen in 1960 (I was 10) and I jumped for joy when I found a videotape of it about 12 years ago. And my attitude towards it has been shaped by my reading articles about the creation of it in Filmfax. I recall reading in a book about science fiction movies in which the author quotes one Hollywood producer of sci fi movies as saying "When you don't have a big budget you have to use your imagination." By our modern "Star Wars-CGI" standards the special effects may seem a little cheesy thought I personally find CGI SFX still a little cartoonish while this at least looks "real", and after having read with what they had to work with, I think they did a pretty good job.
I haven't watched it 10 or so years, so a lot of the details escape me. It starts out with a clever twist, the only survivor who is in halfway decent shape is the "girl" (actually a well qualified scientist) who has brought the rocketship back to Earth. The story is then in flashback, much it reflecting what she remembers. The "Cinemagic" is a bit of a gimmick but it does create an otherworldly atmosphere that reminds us we are on a totally alien world. The scene where Warrant Officer Jacobs is killed by the amoeba absorbing him is pretty dramatic-and imaginative. The final denouement where the Martians angrily tell the Earthmen "Do not return here!"-I can still hear the Martian's basso tones.
Again, it's not George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or Ray Harryhausen, it was made in 1960 and shows it. Approach with an open mind instead of an MST3000 attitude, you just might be entertained.
Men Into Space (1959)
Remember it fondly
I remember this short lived (alas) series, the first IIRC "realistic" space fiction series aimed at an "adult" (in the older sense) audience. I was 10 when it premiered in September 1959 and self designated sophisticate that I was I applauded its attempts at scientific accuracy and integrity (though I avidly devoured comic books at the time as well). I even had the "official" Colonel McCauley Space Helmet, long gone, alas. Needles to say a lot of it went over my head and I wrinkled my nose at those stories that dealt with other than heroic situations. I recall one where McCauley is trying to deal with the problems on the space station while back on Earth his son has been the victim of a hit and run. Not having seen it since about 1960 my memories are hazy. Recall reading (forget where)that while its ratings were acceptable it was simply too expensive, hence it was canceled
L'uomo puma (1980)
Has its' good moments
I saw this one years ago on KYW-Channel 3 (Philadelphia) "Saturday Night Dead" with "Stella", one of the last of the old local "horror host" programs. One thing I look for in "bad" movies are flashes of talent and snippets of dialog that actually are intelligent and witty. The three I remember from this movie are the shaman's disgusted observation to his charge "You are the worst I've ever seen" but then like a strict and unyielding DI with an inept recruit, he's going to make him learn what to do, no ifs ands buts or arguments. When the reluctant hero finally accepts his fate he asks the shaman "Do these powers include invulnerability?" and is told simply "No." There's a scene where the Pumaman grabs one of the villain's henchmen and hoist him up into the sky. The villain threatens to the shoot the Pumaman who calmly tells him "Look down. You shoot me, who's going to catch you?"
I remember this one through a glass darkly
I have fond but hazy memories of this short lived (didn't last a full season) WWII theme program from the Fall of 1966. The premise was based very loosely on the Jedburghs, 3 man teams consisting of a Frenchman, an English or American officer, and a radio operator. Their mission was to train the often disorganized French resistance and coordinate their activities with the Allied forces, the Jedburghs actually went into action on the eve of D-Day and for some time afterwards. "Jericho" is set in some unspecified time before the D-Day landings. The show was played straight with just enough humor to relieve the tension, and reflected the changed attitudes of 20 years later, there was a distinction made between Nazis and Germans and I vaguely recall stories showing the tensions between the German military and the SS and Police organizations. Also it showed some of the nuances of French attitudes, how many French adopted a "wait and see" attitude and were not all 100% pro DeGaulle. I also recall an interview in TV Guide with Dom Francks (Franklin Shepperd) in which he wore an orange suit because "I like it.? Curious to know if any tapes exist, in that pre cable era failed prime time programs didn't have a second chance in syndication or on cable, hence the studios had no incentive to preserve them.